SaltWater Brewing's Opening Week and Delray Beach's Beercentric Future

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Have you heard the good word? Delray Beach has its own production brewery and taproom at the western corner of Atlantic Avenue and Interstate 95. That big red barn? Yep, that's it. You might be used to driving right past it, as it's just on the edge of a decidedly industrial side street.

Monday, December 30, on one of the last days of 2013, SaltWater Brewing opened its doors to the public, ushering in the age of local brewing in the Village by the Sea.

See also: Closer Look: SaltWater Brewery Under Construction in Delray Beach

On the outside, fresh palm trees line the exterior swail, while a slightly masked entrance begs visitors in to the tropical beer garden and finally into the tap room itself.

The interior décor is the love child of Ernest Hemingway and Guy Harvey: dark-stained wood, white painted wood ceilings, brass -- mixed in with signs and murals replete with underwater scenes, swarming fish, and lots and lots of shades of blue.

The afternoon crowd filled the place -- not to capacity yet, as there were enough drink rests and outdoor seating to be had. What will happen here is that parking spaces will fill up much before the tap room does. We saw cars two to three blocks away, as the dozen or so spaces out front were unfortunately inadequate. On days that aren't opening days, it won't be as bad, and options are being touted by the SaltWater team for the future.

As for the beers, we were excited to finally be able to imbibe the product. For months, the SaltWater team has teased their social media accounts with images of malt shipments and brew days.

Available beers at the time of opening included Screamin' Reels IPA, a 7.5 percent alcohol-by-volume West Coast-styled India pale ale that has an aroma of orange, mango, and white grapes and a hop lover's cascade of bitterness that lingers with a long tail of grassiness and herbs. It's a hugely hoppy beer that will delight fans of superbitter IPAs.

Also on tap is the Sea Cow Milk Stout, a moderate 6 percent abv stout brewed with lactose that leaves the beer with a bigger mouthfeel and residual sweetness than a traditional stout. It comes across with espresso-like coffee flavors and finishes like a box of Sno-Caps.

For the session drinkers or those wanting to grab a quick pint after work or, perhaps, during lunch, there is the South End session ale, a 4.5 percent abv quaffable beer with a pale color, slight berry aroma with some white bread and malt sweetness upfront, and a distinct transition to an easy-drinking amber ale character. It has just enough complexity and character to entertain your taste buds.

There are more on tap (seven, in fact), with a Double IPA, Belgian Tripel, Amber, and Scotch ale rounding out the list. They all have their place, and indeed the ales all seem to share a slight consistency between them: that hint of a yeast character that binds them all and marks them as a cohesive bunch. That, and the remarkable clarity. These are gorgeous beers to look at as well as drink.

Though it's a brewery and beer is the centerpiece, there are a few activities to partake in whilst whiling away the afternoon. Take a shot at a game of ubiquitous cornhole in the outside beer patio, or compete in a rousing game of table shuffleboard. There's even a small living-room-esque corner with a flat screen so you don't miss those all-important games.

"We're happy for the turnout," Chris Gove, one of the owners of SaltWater Brewing, said as we stood outside the taproom in the warm winter weather. "I've heard some good things about what people are tasting. We were only hoping that people would come and to have everything ready for the customers to enjoy. We couldn't ask for a better response."

"We're just getting into the market down here in South Florida, which has a nice history of craft beer: Fran [Andrewlevich] and the team at Tequesta Brewing have been super supportive... as has Mike [Halker] and Due South and Ryan [Sentz] with Funky Buddha... Everyone is great."

The future looks especially creative: With Don't Get Confused, their Belgian Trippel, being the first in a line of high-abv beers. "It's a series of stronger beers, on the potent side, that we'll add to," Chris said. Adding to the starting lineup of beers, a doppelbock and barleywine are planned for the next few months. In addition, as is quite popular at the moment, the team is planning on putting out sour beers for spring.

As for the production side, besides moving the product through retail in kegs, Chris says they do want to do special release bottles at least once a season and to be in cans in the long run.

"Our plan is to never stop growing and to never stop learning. [Writers note: That's a great philosophy for life in general] Our main goal, beyond brewing beer, is to facilitate opening the doors to someone who hasn't had [craft beer] before."

Beer things in your Twitter feed, follow me @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.

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